Poetry Month: day 9

This week I taught my 6/7s about pantoums.  A pantoum is a structured poem, written in quatrains, with the repetition of particular lines creating a morphing effect in the voice.

Here is my Pantoum handout.

My students were not learning poetry terms with their classroom teachers so at the top of my handout there is some space for us to discuss and them to write down a short definition of a few terms which I them use in context for the rest of the lesson.
If you are unfamiliar with the formula of a pantoum, it is thus (from the handout):

line 1
line 2
line 3
line 4

line 5 (repeat of line 2)
line 6
line 7 (rep. of line 4)
line 8

line 9 (rep. of line 6)
line 10
line 11 (rep. of line 8)
line 12

(Continue with as many stanzas as you wish, continuing to make the 2nd and 4th lines from one stanza the 1st and 3rd lines of the next.  This continues until you get to the last stanza…)

Last stanza:
line 2 of the previous stanza
line 3 of the first stanza
line 4 of the previous stanza
line 1 of the first stanza

(So the first line of the poem is also the last.)

Once we had reviewed the structure, I read them some examples and we paid special attention to the repetition.  The third page of the handout is a blank frame, including the reminders of which lines are repeated where.  After a very difficult start for a number of students–choosing a topic, and finding rhyming words were a challenge–I allowed some of them to work in pairs.

Note: when a writer gets to line 6, after repeating his first line, he will often be worried that the poem isn’t going to make sense: line 5 (2) was written in the context of stanza 1, and therefore feels very weird as the opening to stanza 2.  That is how I felt when I first learned how to write pantoums.  They have to trust the form.  The writing of lines 6 and 8 will be guided by lines 5 and 7.  This is what creates the interesting wave-like development of the poem.

Will you try this with your students?  Have you already done it this year?  Do you have any favourite student poems?

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